By DUSTY RICKETTS / NWFFL Daily News
Monday, March 3, 2014
OKALOOSA ISLAND — Construction on the Holiday Inn Resort, Fort Walton Beach FL, Okaloosa Island’s first new hotel in 16 years, is nearing completion.
“They’re putting on paint now, finishing up drywall work,” said Rich Chism, director of development for Innisfree Hotels. “They’re real close to being finished.”
The hotel is expected to open by mid-May.
“It’s going to be a great summer,” added Keith Myers, general manager of the new hotel. “We should hit the ground 100 percent.”
Holiday Inn Resort is one of the newest brands in the Holiday Inn lineup and is designed to be more recreational than some of their other brands.
The Okaloosa Island location was also designed with recreation in mind.
The Holiday Inn Resort will feature 152 rooms, a game room for kids, daily children’s programs, an outdoor lazy river and hot tub and an indoor swimming pool.
Chism said its 2,500 square feet of meeting space, which has room for up to 200 people, was designed to be a venue for weddings, featuring big glass windows that overlook the pool deck and the Gulf of Mexico.
The hotel will have its own full-service restaurant inside, called Riptides Sports Grill, and a bar.
One of the key design features will be its open lobby, which is designed to be a gathering place for guests.
“This is a trend you see in more modern-designed hotels,” Chism said. “You’ll see the lobby becoming more of a social place. People like to come and spend time in the lobby as part of the social experience as opposed to just being a place to check in and then go to your room.”
Construction on the $25 million hotel started in November 2012.
Innisfree Hotels, the developers of the Holiday Inn Resort, leased 17 acres from the Air Force to build the new hotel. The property had been used by the Air Force for years to monitor planes and equipment.
Part of Innisfree’s agreement with the Air Force included them constructing a separate office building and radome on the hotel’s roof. The radome will not emit radiation and is not a radar as had been previously reported. Instead, it will receive data from planes and weapon systems that are flying over the Gulf of Mexico.
The actual radome, which is visible now from U.S. Highway 98, will be painted to look like a giant beach ball before the hotel’s opening.
Other plans for the site:
OKALOOSA ISLAND — The Holiday Inn Resort is not the only project Innisfree Hotels has planned for the 17-acre site on Okaloosa County.
In addition to the hotel under construction, the site plans for the property calls for a second, smaller hotel to be built to the west. The second hotel would feature 124 rooms, compared to the 152 rooms at the Holiday Inn Resort.
The two hotels would share some common areas, but the smaller facility would have its own separate brand and wouldn’t be a Holiday Inn Resort.
“We don’t have a start date for that,” said Rich Chism, director of development for Innisfree Hotels. “It’s going to depend on the performance of the first hotel.”
The site work and master plan for the second hotel have already been approved and the lease is already in place, Chism said.
The master plan for the site also has a third building, this one closer to U.S. Highway 98, that is planned for a stand-alone restaurant on the property.
Chism said they hope to bring in a restaurant that would appeal to the tourist crowd.